31 May 2012

Schools call for campaign against ministry

8:55 pm on 31 May 2012

Intermediate Schools fired a warning to the Government on Thursday, calling for a co-ordinated campaign by all education sector groups against plans to cut teachers and increase class sizes.

Gary Sweeney, the head of the Association of Intermediate and Middle Schooling, is also urging its members to boycott new initiatives by the Ministry of Education.

The Government announced in the Budget it is setting new teacher-student ratios in schools that will result in larger class sizes and schools losing teaching positions. From 2013, the teacher-student ratios for Years 2 to 10 will increase to one teacher to 27.5 students.

It also axed a separate allocation for technology teachers. Intermediate school principals believe that will leave them worse off overall, saying they will have to make big increases in the number of children in other classes in Year 7 and 8 in order to maintain technology classes.

Education Minister Hekia Parata backed down slightly over ratios on Tuesday, saying no school would lose more than two fulltime teachers within the next three years. However, on Thursday she said she would not drop her bid to improve the standard of teachers.

The Association of Intermediate and Middle Schooling says Ms Parata has under-estimated the level of anger at the changes and wants schools to boycott any new requests put to it by the ministry - for example, participating in surveys and data collection.

It is also demanding a moratorium on staffing cuts that have been announced. Gary Sweeney told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Thursday a meeting of the sector is being held in Wellington early next week and expects it will include education unions.

Mr Sweeney, who is also principal of Pukekohe Intermediate School, says he expects a united decision for a coordinated campaign on all school staffing.

"I think we're going to take an unprecedented step and all join together to talk about staffing. It's not just Year 7 and 8, it's not just technology teaching - it's the whole idea that you can drive up quality by taking away resources. That's a no-brainer."

Gary Sweeney says a backlash by parents and school trustees has already started, with emails, a media statement and a petition.

Hekia Parata says she will not drop her bid to improve teaching standards.

Hekia Parata says she will not drop her bid to improve teaching standards. Photo: RNZ

Minister target of protest

On Thursday, about 100 teachers, pupils and parents protested outside a meeting where the Education Minister was addressing business leaders in Porirua.

Protester Paul Nees, the head of Rangikura School, says the Government's proposal to increase class sizes will will have a devastating effect on teaching quality and student achievement.

He says the protest, organised by the New Zealand Educational Institute, is the first of a series of events throughout the country.

Teachers want class sizes in contract talks

Primary school teachers are putting changes to class sizes on the agenda for forthcoming contract negotiations.

Primary teachers union president Ian Leckie told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report on Thursday the collective agreement is up for negotiation soon and class sizes are likely to become part of that for the first time.

The Post Primary Teachers Association says inconsistent information about an increase in class sizes is forcing it to oppose the moves.

President Robin Duff says the new teacher-student ratios announced in the Budget will lead to bigger class sizes.

Mr Duff says the class ratios given by the Education Minister do not accurately reflect class sizes because they include all teachers at a school.

PPTA members will discuss the situation, outline the implications of the policy and decide what action to take, he says.